(608) 416-1610

DATE: Monday, February 15, 2021

CONTACT: Efrat Livny

Threshold, a unique community space on Atwood Ave. to permanently close on March 31, 2021.

After six rich and gratifying years of offering a creative, collaborative, and inclusive home-base for our community, Threshold will close its physical space at 2717 Atwood Ave. The building has been a unique and vibrant gathering, event, and coworking space, as well as housing several small businesses and not-for-profits.

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Photo of 2717 Atwood Ave. before its renovation

Threshold was envisioned and founded by Efrat Livny, an eastside artist and bodyworker who wanted to see an autonomous space that would be “for community, by community.”

She provided the funding for the establishment of Threshold and directed the extensive redesign of the 100+-year-old auto shop where the center resided. Her goal was to create a “social good enterprise” that, in time, would become fiscally self-sustaining through income from rent, events, and sponsorships. 2020 was likely to be the year of meeting that goal. However, with the inevitable COVID19 closure last March, this momentum was interrupted, and the building has had only minimal use. With the unlikely prospect that public venues will see a strong recovery any time soon, Livny made the difficult decision to turn to Ian Gurfield, the building owner, to seek a new tenant.

Although the building will no longer be part of Threshold’s offerings, the organization’s vision, and mission will continue. Livny will be taking these into initiatives and collaborations that will support a creative and generative community that advances justice and well-being for all.

Photo of Threshold at night

A closing ceremony for the building at 2717 Atwood Ave. will be held on the Spring Equinox on March 20.

For more information, contact efrat@atthreshold.com. The majority of the furnishings and fixtures that were Threshold’s trademark will be available through an online estate sale that opens on Saturday, February 13, and ends on February 20 https://bit.ly/2ZawtbM.

Photo of Threshold entrance

A tribute video to the wonderful people that made Threshold what it is, the collaborations that it helped forge and the projects that it incubated, is being put together by Mike Gorski (www.mikegorskiphotography.com). Testimonials, pictures, videos, and memories are warmly invited. Please send to efrat@atthreshold.com.


Threshold has been an eastside icon since opening its doors in May of 2015. The 100+-year-old building that housed several garages and a number of manufacturers, was purchased and remodeled by the Goodman Community Center in 2000. When the Goodman Community Center consolidated into its current location, and after sitting vacant for several years, the building was purchased in 2014 by Ian Gurfield.  Efrat Livny, an eastside resident, who was seeking a space for her art and bodywork studios, decided to lease the entire building to create a unique space that would dovetail a community gathering space with small creative businesses such as hers. The building underwent an extensive renovation that revealed and restored its original features – a majestic, curved ceiling with exposed beams, beautifully aged cement and terrazzo floors, and exposed light brick walls. Skylights, large storefront windows, transoms, and glass doors were added to bring light into every corner of what, before, was a very dark space. A beautiful kitchen, accessible restrooms, and a back patio with gardens were added to complete the space. Threshold is probably best known for its vibrant colors that were carefully curated to relax and restore, but also to energize and stimulate. The space was furnished primarily with industrial recycled and repurposed fixtures, reflecting a commitment to reuse, and an appreciation for the utility and aesthetics of the building’s roots.

From its inception, Threshold acknowledged the deep appreciation for the land it stands on and expressed the great sorrow for the loss of the profound traditions, wisdom, and spirit of the Ho-Chunk people from whom this land was usurped. During ceremonies marking each seasonal transition that were held at Threshold, homage was paid to the mound-building, strong-voiced people who gathered here to exchange goods, to celebrate their cultures, and to bury their dead. Influenced by the powerful Effigy Tree carved by Ho-Chunk artist Harry Whitehorse now cast in bronze and situated on the Indian Mound only a few blocks from Threshold, Livny commissioned a sculpture to commemorate these people and their culture. The piece, commissioned from Aaron Howard, a long-time apprentice and student of the renowned Dr. Evermore, was created primarily from original automobile parts and garage equipment that were found in the building. The sculpture was placed in the back patio acting as a bridge between the original inhabitants of this land and the early white residents who used their ambition and hard work ethic to bring new prosperity to Madison’s east side. Livny is currently exploring a new neighborhood location for this beloved and evocative sculpture.

At various times, Threshold was home to several unique businesses – a retail store for healthy self and home care products, massage therapists, life coaches, acupuncturists, photographers, moviemakers, writers, and artists. All brought their vision, talent, devotion, and creativity to the space. A number of not-for-profits utilized Threshold for meetings, events, and projects. For Open Doors for Refugees (ODFR), an all-volunteer organization that supports refugees making a home in Madison, Threshold was a birthplace. In February of 2016, frustrated by the lack of a local response to the devastating Syrian refugee crisis, Livny initiated a public event, “Soup for Syria,” that offered a hearty soup and a presentation by an acupuncturist who had just returned from working directly with refugees coming by sea to Lesvos. The powerful community conversation that followed, resulted in the creation of a motivated and focused workgroup. Not long after, Open Doors was formed. The organization played an important role in doubling the number of refugees to be settled here, primarily from Syria and Iraq, by supporting Jewish Social Services in becoming a refugee resettlement center. Threshold was home to many meetings, community events, and fundraisers for ODFR which, despite the drastic changes in immigration policies over the last four years, and the impacts of COVID, continues to provide support to refugees in significant ways.

During its six years as an event venue, Threshold hosted an incredibly rich array of performances, classes, retreats, ceremonies, conferences, art shows, rituals, and community meals. Event organizers, teachers, artists, performers, as well as participants and audiences came from all walks of life and different ethnicities, age groups, races, abilities, gender identities, spiritual traditions, and cultures. The flexible space easily and quickly transformed from a setting for an intimate wedding to large conferences, from birthdays to multi-day community celebrations of Mother Earth, from memorials to performance series honoring diverse cultures through music and food, from personal retreats to workshops exploring green burials, community art shows, and wild neighborhood dances.  When the COVID closure occurred and in-house events were abruptly canceled, Livny and staff were able to pivot by producing several unique and well-attended virtual programs. From April through September of 2020, the Threshold Wheelhouse offered a Contemplative Photography, Awakened by Beauty, series that brought together world-renowned presenters and global audiences. Other online offerings included workshops on business vision-building, powerful conversations with local black leaders, and the unveiling of a new feature-length film, Trace the Line, which was created in Madison in the midst of COVID. Portions of the film were shot at Threshold which, between April and November 2020, offered filmmakers, Bravebird, access to a much-needed studio, administrative and crew space.

Despite these activities, the building has been woefully underutilized. With the end of the pandemic not yet in sight, the prospects of an imminent “return to normal” for Threshold and venues like it, seem unlikely. Moreover, a new normal of virtual from-home work and remote learning, and the explosion of online offerings, raise a fundamental question about the utility and viability of many of our physical spaces.  As 2020 neared its end, it became apparent that it is time to seek other users and uses for the building.  With another year and a half left on her current lease, Livny turned Ian Gurfield who owns the building to seek a new tenant for the beautiful and well-situated building. The stars have aligned, and a business seeking a location on the eastside will be taking over the space after Threshold’s lease terminates in March.

While a physical hosting space will no longer be part of Threshold’s offerings, the organization’s mission and vision of fostering creativity, inclusivity, and well-being, will continue. In the coming months, Livny will be exploring new avenues and strategic collaborations with organizations and individuals who are dedicated to these missions and visions. She will be continuing her work through a not-for-profit, Art at the Threshold, which she established in 2008 under the fiscal receivership of Arts Wisconsin (https://www.artswisconsin.org/programsservices/fiscal-receiver-services/art-at-the-threshold/). One of her first projects will be the completion of Windows to the Soul, a commissioned series of intimate murals painted on old windows by artists of color who participated in the downtown “mural eruption” in the spring of 2020.

As we bid farewell to our beloved home on Atwood Ave., we enthusiastically welcome a new tenant to the building and the neighborhood. We know that Threshold’s legacy will continue to flow through this wonderful building.